Alternative careers for lawyers, if you’re thinking of a career change

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  • From business to psychology to the creative industries, solicitors can move in all kinds of new career directions

    If you’re feeling stuck in your current profession, it can be hard to imagine that things could be different. But whatever age you are, it’s never too late to have a career change. Nowadays, plenty of people switch professions in their thirties and even forties.

    Of course, some professions open more doors than others, and — if you’re a solicitor looking for a career change — the good news is that law is certainly one of them. If you scan the bios of MPs, tech and business leaders, many of them started life as lawyers. 

    “Solicitors are held to the highest standards in their work and – though sometimes things do go wrong – the profession is perceived as highly trustworthy and reliable and you’d value that in any workplace,” says I. Stephanie Boyce, President of the Law Society of England.

    While your strong worth ethic could impress employers in any field, there are certain paths that ex-lawyers are particularly suited to. “Solicitors have valuable applicable skills in business,” says Stephanie. “Not only do they advise businesses on the law, but they often work at companies in-house, or run businesses themselves if they are in practice”.

    The Law Society President also highlights the analytical skills that you develop as a lawyer — ideal for a career in computing, accountancy or finance. Solicitors are highly skilled at “looking at complex information and being able to understand and apply it to different situations quickly,” she says. “They also often have to explain highly technical issues to lay people, and so it’s really important to ditch the jargon and speak plain English.” 

    The communication skills you develop as a lawyer make you a great fit for more creative professions, too. Take psychotherapist Pip Richardson, for example, who has had not one career change since working as a lawyer, but two. As soon as she qualified, Pip, now 41 and based in Surrey, had a feeling that law wasn’t what she wanted to do forever. After seven years of working as a solicitor, first in dispute resolution and later at a music company, she started exploring her interests through part-time courses. 

    “Marketing really appealed to me,” said Pip. “It was always the storytelling that I really liked about law. Particularly when you’re working on the opposition’s case, you have to build a story and find evidence to support it. Brand identity and communications is all about the story.”   

    Pip ended up working in marketing at a property development company for eight years, before switching things up again to become a psychotherapist. “My work has come back to storytelling again, as therapy asks, what stories do we tell ourselves, our family and the world?” she says. 

    Rear view of female lawyer with colleagues in meeting at legal office

    Pip is currently working as a counsellor and will qualify as a psychotherapist later this year. Alongside private counselling, she helps businesses improve their wellbeing through her company The Circle Line

    “Working in dispute resolution meant I had to work with witnesses and listen to their stories as evidence when building a wider case,” says Pip. “There’s a lot of that in psychology, where you’re having to relate to somebody through empathic listening and asking the right questions in the right way. And, again like in law, you then have to apply your expertise and understanding to form the bigger picture.” 

    Meanwhile, Eleanor Howie, 34 from Norfolk, has swapped healthcare law for lingerie design. “If you’d spoken to me 10 years ago, my plan would have very much been to go up through the ranks in a law firm, become an Associate Solicitor and then become a partner — that’s what I really wanted,” she says. “But I found that changed over time.” 

    Eleanor wanted to do something more creative and where her time was less regimented. She became inspired by a problem she’d had since before she’d even started her training contract. At 24, she’d had a preventative double mastectomy after finding out she was carrying a hereditary gene that increased her risk of breast cancer. 

    “I’ve struggled to find nice lingerie for people like me,” says Eleanor. “The more research I did, the more I realised that it wasn’t just me who was looking for beautiful post-surgery bras”. 

    Focused young woman reading book and making notes at home, concentrates on her studies. Further education concept

    Making the leap into designing lingerie and running her business, Valiant Lingerie, was made easier by the fact that Eleanor had developed strong research skills as a lawyer. She started out by digging deep into market research and speaking to potential customers to find out exactly what they needed. She then used the insights she discovered to inform and shape her creative approach. 

    Though she didn’t realise it at the time, Eleanor found that law had prepared her for a variety of different kinds of roles. “When you’re a lawyer, you don’t necessarily think of yourself as being good at marketing, or understanding it,” says Eleanor. “But actually, it’s something that you do all the time, whether it’s through writing case studies for your firm or building your social media presence. And as you’re working to progress different cases, you’re essentially a project manager. You become very good at managing your own time, as you have to constantly record it and manage your own diary.” 

    With multiple options for a career change, perhaps the best place to start is by asking what it is you want to do. After all, it worked for Pip and Eleanor. “You might get stuck in a rut in law, because of fear, or the fact it’s good money and quite a rigid hierarchy,” says Pip. “But you can do a million other things.” So rest assured, if you’re a lawyer and thinking of having a career change, you could be closer to finding that new, dream job than you might think. 


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